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Hi.

Could someone please help me understand what "subtle as a train wreck" means? I think you use that to mean something is not subtle at all sarcastically.

"Her visit was as subtle as a train wreck!"

"You know, once in a great while someone comes along who makes us appreciate train wrecks."

Does the latter speaker think "her visit" was subtle? No, he thinks it was totally opposite, right?

On second thought, the former speakers thinks her visit was short but was chaotic, and the latter speaker agrees and thinks once in a blue moon a short, rowdy visit may be good. Am I abou t right?

Best,

Hiro
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Hi Hiro,
You have it exactly right. It's pure sarcasm.

I see chaos and violence as the essential features. I don't think shortness is essential. Neither would be "loudness," although both are characteristic of train wrecks.

It's one thing to say, "She came in like a bull in a china shop!" and another thing to say "She's as careful as a bull in a china shop."

That is, your example doesn't compare her to a trainwreck in general, but only with respect to the presence or absense of subtlety. (So chaos and violence are not really essential either, come to think of it.)

In my opinion, you're incorrect about the second speaker. This form is usually used to imply that a new standard in badness has just been set.

We thought the 4.0 earthquake last year was bad. Last week we had a 6.5, which made us really appreciate the 4.0. (The 4.0 wasn't so bad after all. The train wreck wasn't so bad after all. This woman is far worse!)
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HSSCould someone please help me understand what "subtle as a train wreck" means? I think you use that to mean something is not subtle at all sarcastically.

Exactly.
HSS
Does the latter speaker think "her visit" was subtle? No, he thinks it was totally opposite, right?

On second thought, the former speakers thinks her visit was short but was chaotic, and the latter speaker agrees and thinks once in a blue moon a short, rowdy visit may be good. Am I abou t right?

To me, the second sentence could mean any of three different things, depending on whether the speaker is supporting the first statement or countering it (I'm assuming one follows the other):

  1. The visit was such a disaster that even a train wreck would be more desirable.

  2. The speaker agrees that the visit was "(subtle as a) train wreck", but thinks there is nevertheless some redeeming factor or benefit that means the visit should be appreciated.

  3. The speaker disagrees that the visit was "(subtle as a) train wreck", and is just echoing the term in order to dismiss it.
The visit doesn't necessarily have to be "short", or "rowdy", or "chaotic" to be described as "subtle as a train wreck". It could even be quite polite and civilised, and "unsubtle" in a different sense -- say if an attempt to disguise the motive for the visit was easily seen through. One would need to know the context.
This is a bit too belated, but I must thank both of you, Avangi and Mr. Wordy, for your detailed input. Your messages were really helpful in understanding the context.

Hiro/ Sendai, Japan